The composer of ‘Beavis and Butt-Head’ has hired a 69-piece orchestra
When director Mike Judge was working on “Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe” (now airing on Paramount+), it was only fitting that he called in composer John Frizzell to work on the score. Judge needed the film’s music to reflect the emotional and physical journey the duo would embark on. To do this, Frizzell recorded an epic score with a 69-piece orchestra in Vienna.
In the new film, Beavis and Butt-Head reunite at space camp because of a “creative condemnation” from a 1998 youth judge mistaking a docking simulator for something else. Beavis and Butt-Head excel at it and are invited to join the space shuttle mission as part of a public relations move. After ruining the mission, they are left for dead in space and end up traversing a black hole and reappearing on Earth in 2022, only to discover a very different world – and find themselves deemed Buttholes of Interest by the NSA, the governor of Texas, and a highly intelligent version of themselves from a parallel universe.
Frizzell worked to provide clues ranging from the emotional to the comedic. In all, he ended up with 60 minutes of music for the film using powerful bass trombones and brass to accompany the cartoon duo on their new adventure.
How did this movie Beavis and Butt-Head vs. score the last? What made this score unique and are there any familiar themes you brought from your last Beavis and Butt-Head score?
While both films feature a large orchestra, the new film has a lot more music. The 1996 film has around 30 minutes of score and the new film has almost 60 minutes. The sci-fi aspect of the new film allowed me to really up the intensity of the score, as dealing with time travel and parallel universes allowed the music to be even more dynamic and expressive. than the spy/action subject matter of the 1996 film. In particular, I wrote a lot for brass and was able to include a lot of powerful bass trombones in addition to a few passages that feature trumpets. There’s a brief quote from the 1996 movie in the opening credits where I used the “Butt-kong” theme. The new score also features a love theme and quite a few theremin solos. My goal was to have virtually no comedy in the new score. The only time I broke this rule was when the unicorn appeared.
You and Mike Judge have worked together on several projects over the years. How do you two collaborate?
Mike and I have a definite shortcut to working together. We still did a traditional location scouting session. I usually throw out a few ideas about the vibe I’m thinking of and if Mike is actually laughing, I know it’s on the right track, but more often than not I just have to dig in and write and see where it leads. This score took me about three months to write. Very little was revisited or rewritten, most of the time was spent refining ideas and fine-tuning details and orchestration. I’ve had plenty of time to refine the score and it really helps it feel cohesive and cohesive.
Although the score doesn’t look like a comedy score, it is meticulously timed so that the image hits very precise moments. At the same time, I didn’t want it to feel so intentional and tightly synchronized. It was a difficult thing to achieve. Also, the score has a lot of tempo variations with big accelerandos and rallentandos. I wanted the music to be very smooth and natural, like there was no precise click, but it had to be kind of an illusion because it had to be precise. It took a long time. As for the pandemic, I think by the time we started I was pretty acclimated to zooming. I do very well in isolation, so maybe the lack of social contact worked to my advantage. I just go to the studio for long periods of time, and I completely lose track of time and write and write and write.
How was your first music experience with the Vienna Film Orchestra? At the end of the process, what do you think of this score and what makes it special?
Vienna was wonderful. We had a lot of music to record and we had to go really fast. It took a top-notch team and near-perfect organization to achieve this. Nick Cimity from my team set the tone for this organization with his precision and perfectionism and the Vienna Film Orchestra team, including Bernd Mazaag, our sound engineer, followed suit. The sessions were precise but always very creative. Great organization and precision are required to have a creative and enjoyable recording session of this complexity. The Synchron team in Vienna nailed it and each player put their personal mastery of their instrument into this score.
I feel really good with this score. It’s by far my favorite thing I’ve ever written and I’m thrilled that it’s now part of the world. Beavis and Butt-Head have been a big part of my life for a long time and I feel like they’re practically family. I am very protective of them. Mike has given the world an incredible piece of humor and satire and I’m truly grateful to be a part of it. Above all, I really appreciate that we really make people laugh. The whole earth really needs a good laugh these days and the boys are back to help take the stupidity to a new level out of this world.